Teaching Students About 9/11 With Personal Stories

Shannon Elliott, a 9/11 Memorial education specialist, gives a Museum tour to students in Memorial Hall. The students are holding clipboards as they listen to her.
Shannon Elliott, a 9/11 Memorial education specialist, gives a Museum tour to students. Photo by Jin Lee.

As an education specialist at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, I find the most meaningful moments are when students, many of whom are too young to have lived through the day, make connections to the event through personal stories. This summer, a group of teenagers from Youth Consultation Services—an organization in New Jersey that provides behavioral and mental health services to children and young adults—had the opportunity to make a deeply personal connection to 9/11 thanks to the Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation.

Todd Ouida was one of the 658 employees of Cantor Fitzgerald killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Later, his family created the Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation, in part, to "financially support psychological services for children of families in need and promote mental health initiatives for all children,” according to its website. As a child, Ouida suffered from a panic disorder so severe that he was unable to attend school from fourth to sixth grade. However, with the help of a child psychiatrist and support from his family, he returned to school, graduated as an honors student from River Dell High School in New Jersey, and attended the University of Michigan before accepting a job at Cantor Fitzgerald.

For many of the teenagers who visited the Memorial and Museum, Ouida’s story resonated deeply. “I could relate with some of the people here because they’ve been through a lot and they went through a lot of pains, but they still stood their head up,” John, 15, whose last name was withheld, told the Bergen Record.

My colleagues and I are grateful to have had the opportunity to tell Ouida’s story and witness the impression it made on the group. Sharing these moments with students makes our job all the more meaningful.

By Shannon Elliott, 9/11 Memorial Education Specialist

Note: Shannon and our other education specialists give classroom workshops Monday through Friday each week. 

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